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Vuelta 2019, Stage 20: Arenas de San Pedro - Plataforma de Gredos > 190.4 km

The final battle in the mountains is coming up. The riders are taking on a succession of climbs in Western Spain, including two of first category. It's never really steep, but after the hectic stages of the past few days the dangers of fatigue and isolation are lurking around the corner. The Paña Negra comes 34 km before the finish. There's an intermediate sprint 11 km before the finish, followed by a final climb in two steps.



Comment by Fernado Escartín: "A difficult stage serving up five mountain passes. If any of the teams have any gunpowder left, this is the perfect terrain for an ambush. A very winding route up to the climb of Puerto de Peña Negra (1st category), where the race leader will have to fend off his rivals’ right down to the wire if he wants to win La Vuelta."



Puerto de Pedro Bernardo: 18.4 km @ 4.4%




Puerto de Paña Negra: 14.2 km @ 5.9%




Final 5 km:

 
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Reactions: 18-Valve. (pithy)
I really really like this as a final mountain stage. Fight until the last meter but if you want to gain anything more than a few seconds you have to go long. Then at the same time it's also not hard enough to frighten the riders on previous stages.

I hope for Lopez to attack Quintana on the penultimate climb and that would most likely lead to a pretty good stage. Unless Roglic got hurt it will probably be a walk in the park for him. I don't think anyone has the capabilities to drop him and MAL will ride mostly against the Movistar guys as I doubt he still has any hope left to get red. However if Roglic struggles after today things could get very spicy...
 
Reactions: Red Rick
It will be too early in the stage to make a difference, but there is an uncategorized climb that starts at KM 105 that looks significantly steeper than the Cat 3 Puerto de Chia climb shortly after it? But then again, la vuelta's official profiles have been far from exacting this year.

There are also a couple of short, uncategorized climbs between the bottom of the Pana Negra and the start of the final climb to the finish. I guess that accounts for this stage having more than 4,000m of climbing.
 
That climb before Chía is a glitch in whatever they're using for the profiles. La flamme rouge shows it's 3km@6.4% whereas Chía is 2.5km@7.1%. The accumulated climbing comes from the fact that the road is most of the time either uphill or downhill.
BTW, the stage has been 'designed' by Carlos Sastre, who grew up and lives in the region. I think he could have done a better start and mid section, but the finish is as good as it can be done.
 
Reactions: Sciatic
I really really like this as a final mountain stage. Fight until the last meter but if you want to gain anything more than a few seconds you have to go long. Then at the same time it's also not hard enough to frighten the riders on previous stages.

I hope for Lopez to attack Quintana on the penultimate climb and that would most likely lead to a pretty good stage. Unless Roglic got hurt it will probably be a walk in the park for him. I don't think anyone has the capabilities to drop him and MAL will ride mostly against the Movistar guys as I doubt he still has any hope left to get red. However if Roglic struggles after today things could get very spicy...
Honestly fear there's not one climb that's hard enough. You need one climb that's hard enough and it's not really there imo
 
I really really like this as a final mountain stage. Fight until the last meter but if you want to gain anything more than a few seconds you have to go long. Then at the same time it's also not hard enough to frighten the riders on previous stages.

I hope for Lopez to attack Quintana on the penultimate climb and that would most likely lead to a pretty good stage. Unless Roglic got hurt it will probably be a walk in the park for him. I don't think anyone has the capabilities to drop him and MAL will ride mostly against the Movistar guys as I doubt he still has any hope left to get red. However if Roglic struggles after today things could get very spicy...
Yeah, it will be interesting to see Nairo's classicomano's legs against Lopez's bike handling skills on wet roads.
 
Reactions: Rollthedice
That climb before Chía is a glitch in whatever they're using for the profiles. La flamme rouge shows it's 3km@6.4% whereas Chía is 2.5km@7.1%. The accumulated climbing comes from the fact that the road is most of the time either uphill or downhill.
BTW, the stage has been 'designed' by Carlos Sastre, who grew up and lives in the region. I think he could have done a better start and mid section, but the finish is as good as it can be done.
thanks, that's good to know!
 
I would prefer Centenera as the first climb to Pedro Bernardo - it would also make a double cat.1 opening. The alternative would be to go straight to Serranillos from the word go, making it a full cat.1 climb (plus also harking back to Bernard Hinault's great 1983 show that won him the race in the Ávila stage), then La Erilla and Las Erillas back to back before Chía and Peña Negra.

Last year they climbed the easier side of Peña Negra in the La Covatilla stage. The last time they climbed this side was 2004, in the Ávila stage. Juan Fuentes won the climb from the early break, Javier Pascual won the stage in a two-up against Iván Parra. Typically the climb has been used as part of intermediate stages into Ávila like that, going over Peña Negra early, then over rolling terrain through the Sierra de Gredos, descending through the Puerto del Pico and ascending the Puerto de Serranillos. Laurent Jalabert won a 1995 stage of that fashion, from Salamanca, taking the Peña Negra summit en route despite already being in the race lead. The 1995 stage was a clone of a stage which had in fact been used three times before, and it was the third time in four years that an almost identical stage design had been used, after 1992 and 1993. The reason for the repetition, however, was an attempt to ape Bernard Hinault's legendary attack in 1983 that was part of what cemented Ávila's place of legend in the Vuelta long before Frank Vandenbroucke had even considered it. Hinault was a bit of a wounded animal at that point in the 1983 race, having taken the lead on stage 5 but lost it a day later having been caught out in the Pyrenees. Suffering from tendinitis, he also lost time in the Panticosa TT at the midway point, and while he'd gained some time back on Gorospe and Fernández at Lagos de Covadonga, he'd lost it to Marino Lejarreta. Also growing suspicious of his young teammate Laurent Fignon, the always belligerent Badger won the stage 15 ITT but was still just over a minute off the lead going into the penultimate decisive stage. He attacked hard on Peña Negra, well over 100km from home, and isolated the other leaders, before disappearing once and for all on the Puerto de Serranillos. He was not keen on being upstaged, regardless of the consequences, and the Badger felt he was being humiliated in Spain against opposition he ought to have stomped. Tendinitis be damned, he rode his heart out to prove his point, and while eventually Lejarreta and Belda joined him, he took the stage and turned his disadvantage into a clear lead, with the trio finishing three minutes up on anybody else - with Fignon leading the second group.

Of course, as well as being one of the Vuelta's most legendary stages, comparable in lore to Fuente's legendary Formigal raid, Loroño being wrestled off his bike on the snowy Puerto de Pajáres, and in latter years Heras' Pajáres masterstroke and Contador's Fuente Dé escapades, that stage also paved the way for the next phase of cycling history, with the effects of riding on through the tendinitis to prove his point causing Hinault to miss the Tour de France; that led to Renault-Elf putting their weight behind Fignon, who won the Tour and set in motion the rivalry that would characterise the next few years. 1983 is probably the only time that Peña Negra has really played a central role in proceedings, despite being over 100km from the finish, due to the Badger's determination that ultimately cost him dearly, despite winning him what is still considered one of the greatest Vueltas ever raced, tomorrow is probably its best chance since then to pave itself into the race's lore.
 
Reactions: sir fly
On a stage like this anything can happen, and yet nothing happening is more likely.

Having a slightly harder stage today makes me a bit more hopeful. Hopeful that Quintana goes early, MAL goes often and el Bala fires one that is clearly aimed at Roglic for a change. Vedremo.
 
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I think a lot of riders have been pounded/tenderized pretty good by this Vuelta, so it could open things up on stage 20. If this course had been raced, say, in the early part of week 2, I don't think it would have shaken up the GC picture. But now, when there may be some riders nursing various degrees of injury, fatigue, and possibly illness, some vulnerabilities may be exposed. Some teams are weaker for sure than they were a week ago. Who knows what may happen: maybe not much, maybe a whole lot.
 
Reactions: SafeBet
On a stage like this anything can happen, and yet nothing happening is more likely.

Having a slightly harder stage today makes me a bit more hopeful. Hopeful that Quintana goes early, MAL goes often and el Bala fires one that is clearly aimed at Roglic for a change. Vedremo.
This would be great. Dont mind who wins as long its not a wait for the last 500m kind of stage
 
The final 3.5 km are about 7.5%. If the final 10-15 km had that gradient, everyone would say it was a typical MTF. But if the final 10-15 km had that gradient, any group left at that point would probably ride together until the final 2-3 km anyway. Here, the attacks should begin about as soon as the climb begins.

And the Negra is not chopped liver, 14 km at 6%. We should see a lot of attacks there. If a rider gets away there, and isn't caught on the descent, there is enough climbing in the final 20 km to hold a lead over a chasing group.
 
I guess we find out if Roglic has any issues from his crash today.
I'm fairly confident that Valverde can hold onto his podium. (I still don't think this stage is as bad for Valverde as 16 had the potential to be.)
It's very possible that Lopez ends up on the podium over Quintana.
 
Lopez to go off or try to. Quintana looks vulnerable. Pogacar will also probably be hanging on. Valverde and Roglic don't look like dropping time at this stage, some is okay of course. Don't know if the crash will effect any of the GC riders, it's always possible.
 
4,000 meters of climbing is not insignificant, and its a loooong stage. Looking at the profile, if someone gets on their back foot on Pana Negra it would be hard, if not impossible, to chase back. I look for Lopez to attack, with the rest just hanging on. Unless Quintana rises from the near dead again.
 
I guess we find out if Roglic has any issues from his crash today.
I'm fairly confident that Valverde can hold onto his podium. (I still don't think this stage is as bad for Valverde as 16 had the potential to be.)
It's very possible that Lopez ends up on the podium over Quintana.
I actually think Valverde is maybe the strongest in the race right now, he should definitely try to crack Roglic. In fact Movistar as a team should forget about podium places of Quintana and Valverde and try to race as aggressive as possible. Lopez could be a possible ally, despite his harsh words yesterday (he apologized later). The best scenario would be if Valverde and Lopez broke free. That way Quintana would probably lose the podium, but it's the only chance for the overall win imo.
 

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